Sunday's Sermon

 

"Compassion for Them"

 by Wayne L. Derber, Pastor

July 22, 2018 - Pentecost 9 - B

Sermon text: “As he (Jesus) went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” – Mark 6:34

 

“Like sheep without a shepherd.”

This was the observation that Jesus once made

                  about the many people he saw around him.

In our gospel reading for today, we heard the words:

      “As he (Jesus) went ashore, he saw a great crowd;

            and he had compassion for them,

                  because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

“Like sheep without a shepherd.”

 

Now sheep are rather dumb animals.

Sheep can’t take care of themselves.

They need a shepherd to take them to green pastures…

            a shepherd to guide them to water…

            a shepherd to protect them from the wild animals…

            a shepherd to tend them when they are sick…

            a shepherd to take care of them.

Sheep really need a shepherd!

 

As much as sheep need a shepherd to take care of them,

      so do we need the guidance and help of God,

            the one who is sometimes called “The Good Shepherd.”                    

 

Many people during the time of Jesus

            were living their life without God.

They were living as they pleased…

            doing what they wanted…

            struggling to survive by their own strength and resources.

They were attempting to live without God and failing miserably.

They were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

 

Who were these people in the crowd that day?

They probably weren’t much different than people of today.

 

Perhaps there was someone in the crowd weighed down with guilt

            and very much in need of God’s forgiveness.

Perhaps there was another person feeling very unworthy

            and very much in need of God’s love.

Perhaps there was another person

                  feeling anxious and worried about the future

            and very much in need of God providing care.

Perhaps there was another person feeling overwhelmed with stress

            and very much in need of the peace of God.

Perhaps there was another person feeling hurt with a broken heart

            and very much in need of God’s comfort.

Perhaps there was another person feeling very lonely

            and very much in need of God’s presence.

Perhaps there was another person feeling very discouraged

            and very much in need of God’s hope.

Perhaps there was another person very fearful of death

            and very much in need of God’s promise of eternal life.

Perhaps there were other people feeling broken in body, soul, or spirit,

            and very much in need of God’s healing.

 

Obviously there were many people in the crowd that day

            struggling some major difficulties in their lives

                  and were trying to manage without any help from God.

 

No wonder Jesus had compassion for them.

No wonder Jesus felt that they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”

So Jesus had compassion for them.

 

One dictionary defines the word “compassion” this way:

      “The deep feeling of sharing the suffering of another

            in the inclination to give aid or support, or to show mercy.”

 

After seeing so many people who were like “sheep without a shepherd,”

            Jesus had compassion for them.

But he didn’t just feel compassion in his heart for these people,

      he demonstrated his compassion for them with his actions.

The remaining verses of this chapter tell us of four specific ways

                  that he showed compassion for these people.

 

The first way Jesus showed his compassion

                  for these “sheep without a shepherd”

                        was to teach them many things.

The gospel writer Mark doesn’t tell us the specifics

                  of Jesus’ teachings on this occasion,

      but we can imagine it included some of his basic teachings, like:

            “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

            “God will forgive your sins and you should forgive others.”

            “Turn the other cheek when people hurt you.”

            “You are a precious child of God.”

            “Love one another… even your enemies.”

            “Trust God to take care of you.”

            “Share with one another.”

            “Welcome the stranger and outcast.”

            “You will live in heaven forever.”

Yes, the first way Jesus showed compassion for the people

      was to teach them some important truths about God

                  and also about how they should treat other people.

 

A second way Jesus showed compassion

            for these “sheep without a shepherd”

                        was to feed them.

There were thousands of people in the crowd that day.

The disciples had only two fish and five loaves of bread.

But in some miraculous way,

            Jesus multiplied the fish and bread

                  and fed everyone.

 

So a second way Jesus showed his compassion for the people

            was to feed them some food.

 

A third way that Jesus showed compassion

                  for these “sheep without a shepherd”

                        was to pray for them.

Immediately after feeding the crowd of thousands

            Jesus went up a mountain and prayed.

Again, Mark doesn’t tell us the specifics of this prayer.

But we can well imagine that Jesus prayed

            for the people that he had been with that day.

After all, they were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

And Jesus had compassion for them.

 

So a third way Jesus showed compassion for the people

            was to pray for them.

 

A fourth way Jesus showed compassion

                  for these “sheep without a shepherd”

                        was to heal those who were sick.

      “…wherever he (Jesus) went, into villages or cities or farms,

            they laid the sick in the marketplaces,

                  and begged him that they might touch

                        even the fringe of his cloak;

            and all who touched it were healed.”

 

So a fourth way Jesus showed his compassion for the people

            was to heal them.

 

If Jesus long ago looked over this crowd of people

            and had compassion for many of them

                  who were like “sheep without a shepherd,”

      surely Jesus makes that same observation

            when he looks out over the crowds of people today.

 

There certainly are many people today who are

            “like sheep without a shepherd.”

They may believe that God exist,

            but they have no real relationship with him.

If only they knew how much compassion

            the good shepherd has for them.

 

The twenty-third psalm is a favorite of many Christians.

This psalm speaks about how the Lord is our shepherd

                  and how he watches over and takes care of us.

I was wondering how it would be to rewrite the words of this psalm

            to make it apply to someone

                  who does not have God as a shepherd.

This is what I came up with.

 

The Lord is not my shepherd.

I do not need God in my life.

I can do whatever I please.

 

But it seems that I am always wanting more

            and never feeling satisfied.

 

I have no “green pastures” –

      for me the grass always seems greener

            on the other side of the fence.

 

No one leads me to still waters –

      the waters of my life are often rough, stormy, and threatening.

 

No one restores my soul –

      I often feel empty, weary, and guilt-ridden.

 

No one leads me in paths of righteousness –

      I chose my own paths in life,

            but often I chose the wrong path, get lost,

                  and find myself in a painful dead-end.

 

Sometimes I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

But I am so afraid of evil and darkness and death.

No one seems to walk through the valleys with me – not even God.

I feel so alone.

In the valleys there is no one who comforts me.

 

No one prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

No one feeds me emotionally when I have conflicts –

            and I have so much strife in my life.

 

No one anoints my head with oil.

No one loves me or thinks that I am special.

I don’t know if God loves me or not.

So often God seems so far away and uncaring.

 

So my cup does not overflow.

The cup of my life often seems empty of love, meaning, and hope

            no matter how much I try to fill it

                  with the things of this world.

 

Goodness and mercy do not follow me

            all the days of my life.

My life is not full of goodness

            but with strife, indifference, and despair.

My life is not full of mercy

            but with rules, demands, and expectations.

 

And I am not sure if I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I’m not sure if there is life after death.

I’m not sure if God even exists.

So maybe death is just the end.

Maybe there is nothing more in this world.

Maybe my life has no meaning or purpose.

 

After all, the Lord is not my shepherd.

 

Can you imagine living life

                  without having God for your shepherd?

Can you imagine having no forgiveness for your sins?

      having no faith that God will take care of you?..

            no comfort from God when grieving?..

            no love from God?..

            no meaning for your life?..

            no hope of eternal life?

Can you imagine having no shepherd?

Can you imagine that?!?

 

Wouldn’t that be a very lonely, empty and meaningless life?

 

No wonder that Jesus had compassion for the people long ago

            who were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

No wonder that Jesus still has compassion for the people of today

            who are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

 

If we are true followers of Jesus

            then we also should have compassion

                  for the people of today

            who are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

 

There are people all around us living

                  without any real relationship with God.

They may be good and decent people.

But they have no real relationship to God.

They are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

There are people all around us living without God.

 

As Jesus had compassion for these “sheep without a shepherd”

            so should we have compassion for such people.

The outreach efforts of our congregation

                  need to begin with genuine compassion

                        for the shepherdless people all around us.

 

I know it’s human nature to be selfish…

            to think first about our own needs, wants, and desires.

But as we are gathered into a relationship with God…

            as we live in the flock of the Good Shepherd…

                  we grow with compassion for those on the outside…

                        for those who are like “sheep without a shepherd.”

 

This is the great commission that our Lord has given us…

            “to go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

There is a great mission field all around us…

            among our families… among our friends…

                  among our co-workers…

                        and among our neighbors.

All around us there are “sheep without a shepherd.”

 

Our outreach efforts have to begin with compassion…

            genuine compassion and concern for those are like

                  “sheep without a shepherd.”

No matter what we try in our outreach efforts,

            if it is not done with genuine compassion for others

                  it probably will not work.

                 

In our gospel reading for today

            Jesus clearly shows us genuine compassion.

And as Jesus demonstrated his compassion to people long ago,

            so should we today.

 

First, as Jesus with compassion taught the shepherdless people,

            so we should tell others about God…

                  especially about his love, forgiveness, mercy, and comfort.

 

Second, as Jesus with compassion fed the shepherdless people,

            so we also should help provide the basic needs of people.

 

Third, as Jesus with compassion prayed for the shepherdless people,

            so we also should be praying for people living without God.

 

And fourth, as Jesus with compassion healed the shepherdless people,

            so we also should bring people

                  to God who can heal in body, soul, or spirit.

           

Long ago Jesus saw many people trying to live life without God.

He thought of them as “sheep without a shepherd.”

For these struggling shepherdless people,

                        Jesus had compassion for them.

 

We, who are followers of Christ, need to do the same.

We see the “sheep without a shepherd” all around us every day.

As Jesus does, so should we also…

            have “compassion for them.”

 

            Amen.